Perhaps it’s because I’m running as a candidate myself, but I find the media focus on who is leaking what and why gets very tiresome very quickly. That’s not to say that voters aren’t interested at all in such things, but it does run a poor second to those issues that directly affect people’s lives – whether it be jobs, the economy, climate change, housing or transport.
The fairly empty nature of the national campaign run to date by the two larger parties leads me to agree with the view of a number of commentators that this election is likely to see local and regional factors have a much greater impact than usual, leading to greater variations in swings between different areas.
It is too much to ask for mainstream media coverage to drill down into the specifics of all 150 seats – as well as the 8 different Senate contests – so it is understandable that most of the focus is on the marginals. Queensland alone has 16 seats held by a margin of less than 5 per cent, and it’s hard not to have the feeling that there could be larger swings than that in a few seats.
Even so, one seat that is certain not to change hands is Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith, which is in Brisbane’s inner southern suburbs and has a margin of 12.3 per cent. In Mr Rudd’s famous farewell press conference as Prime Minister, when announcing he would re-contest his seat, he made special mention of “the good burghers of Griffith” and sought their understanding for the amount of time he had to spend away from his electorate whilst he was Labor leader.
I have no doubt most of the voters of Griffith are sympathetic to the traumatic experience Kevin Rudd has recently gone through and for the unavoidable fact that being Prime Minster meant he couldn’t spend as much time in his electorate as he would have liked.
But it is still hard to escape the feeling that the voters of Griffith are being somewhat taken for granted. Despite lamenting how much other duties had kept him away from his electorate, there a widely reported belief that Mr Rudd is angling for a UN job, which he would either do in addition to being the member for Griffith or which would lead him to his resign his seat in the not too distant future.
On the Liberal National party side of things, there was the curious spectacle of them sacking their previously endorsed candidate, but then holding off on naming a new candidate until it was clearer whether Mr Rudd would run or not. Once it became clear that Rudd was likely to run, the LNP went with a low profile first-time candidate, but the widespread assumption – not denied by the party – was that the LNP had a better candidate in the wings, but they would only come forward if Rudd wasn’t running.
The less than full engagement with the electorate from both Labor and the LNP at the start of the campaign enabled the Greens’ candidate, Emma-Kate Rose, to get much more coverage as the only major party candidate out and campaigning from when the election was called – aided by the fact that she is an articulate, locally based candidate.
With all the rancour now occurring about the damaging internal leaks against Julia Gillard, there is even more speculation that Kevin Rudd won’t have a place in a post-election Gillard government (should Labor win of course).
This has led Barry Cassidy to make the bold assertion, that in amongst all the electoral uncertainty, one prediction that must be close to certain is “that there will be a by-election in the seat of Griffith before Christmas”.
If that happens, the assumption is that Labor’s popular local Councillor for the area, Shayne Sutton, would seek to fill Rudd’s vacancy, while the LNP’s unnamed high profile candidate would be brought in off the interchange bench. And quite possibly, the Greens’ Emma-Kate Rose, taking on the two new contestants.
Either way, if the good burghers of Griffith had felt they had been in any way neglected, they may now be getting a lot more electoral attention than they expected.